After the schuss, the ski tow

After the schuss, the ski tow

After a high-speed downhill section with peak speeds of over 30 knots between Fastnet and the ‘Tout Commence en Finistère’ waypoint, which the front runners rounded at about 02:00 hours French time this Wednesday morning, the duos competing in the Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race Brest-Brest are now beating towards their next course mark, powered by around twenty knots of breeze on heavy seas. As a result, the situation aboard the boats has changed radically, but despite the discomfort the goal remains the same for everyone: to make as fast headway as possible. And for good reason, as the current strategy is relatively simple with the fairly compulsory zigzagging to make the famous Gallimard waypoint. The leaders will likely round this virtual mark between 01:00 and 02:00 hours French time this Thursday after a fairly quick run.

“After a fun-filled leg, running around like wild boars, today’s beat feels like a punishment of sorts,” admitted Julien Pulvé (Maître CoQ V) at midday. Indeed, following a long reach completed at supersonic speed, the Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race Brest – Brest sailors are currently sailing close-hauled. The IMOCAs are slamming, banging and heeled over, making for a rather uncomfortable ride. “We’re virtually crawling about on our hands and knees down below and we’re occasionally getting caught out by a wave, which is compressing our spines,” confirmed his co-skipper Jean-Marie Dauris, as they continue to jostle for the fifth spot and almost form one on the cartography with the duo of Sam Davies - Damien Seguin (Initiatives Cœur). “It’s great to have a boat alongside to spur us on to perform well.” 

“It's not easy to keep going fast the whole time, as it’s hard to strike a balance between speed and course,” explained the co-skipper on Maître CoQ V. In essence, like virtually all their rivals, they climbed a long way north, to just thirty or so miles to the south of the Fastnet lighthouse, before changing tack midway through the afternoon to switch back onto the layline for the Gallimard waypoint. “After rounding the ‘Trophée Région Bretagne’ virtual mark we were kind of compelled to go off on one a bit as we waited for the wind to veer as forecast, without much to latch onto as the slight fluctuations were too fleeting to benefit from. Now that we’ve manoeuvred and we’re on a direct course towards the mark, the aim is to make as fast headway as possible and to position ourselves as best we can in relation to our playmates,” added the sailor from La Rochelle, currently around twenty miles astern of FOR THE PLANET skippered by Sam Goodchild and Antoine Koch, then Paprec Arkéa skippered by Yoann Richomme and Yann Eliès, who are virtually inseparable. “Being so close to Paprec Arkéa is very interesting in as much as we’re learning about the boat,” explains Sam Goodchild. “We’re trying things which sometimes work really well and sometimes less so. Our speeds are not always very constant, but having a pacesetter with us means that we very quickly know where we’re at with it, even if the wind isn’t stable.”

Matches within the match

Indeed, out on the water, the sailors are having to deal with a NW’ly wind of around twenty knots, which is continuing to gradually shift round to the north, whilst also picking up slightly along with the sea state. “Conditions are a bit bracing, but nothing disturbing. We know that the worst of it will soon be behind us and that after the Gallimard waypoint we’ll finish with a long stretch of downwind VMG,” explained Morgan Lagravière (FOR PEOPLE), who had his lead snatched from under him yesterday by the Jérémie Beyou - Franck Cammas pairing as they dropped down from Fastnet to the ‘Trophée Région Bretagne’ waypoint, but managed to regain the top spot by late morning after a frenzy of zigzagging. “We’re pleased to have got back in front of Charal 2. One minute it’s them ahead, the next it’s us. Aboard the boat the atmosphere is fantastic and there are still four of us as Fernand the pigeon has decided to keep us company for the period of extra-time. We’re giving him cookies to eat, which he seems to like. Like us, he’s going all out for the end of the race!” assured Thomas Ruyant’s co-skipper, already keen to ease the sheets during the long 400-mile sprint back to Brest after the mark. 

The latter sprint will likely involve a run for the first boats and a reach for the latecomers, enabling all those still out on the racetrack to loop the loop from Thursday evening through into Saturday morning. It’s worth noting that there are only ten boats still racing this evening after retirements by Guirec Soudée and Corentin Douguet (Freelance.com) yesterday, due to breaking their bowsprit, as well as those by Louis Duc and Halvard Mabire (Fives Group – Lantana Environnement) and then Antoine Cornic and Jean-Charles Luro (HUMAN Immobilier) announced this Wednesday. Having broken their hydrogenerator mounting, the former duo is expected into Brest by late afternoon. The latter, thwarted by water ingress around the starboard rudder, are diverting to La Rochelle, their port of registry, which they should reach by the end of tomorrow.

Quotes from the boats: 

Alan Roura (Hublot): “As soon as we escaped the upwind conditions after rounding Fastnet, we knew we’d be quicker than some of the others on a reach. It’s been pretty full-on over the past 24 hours and we’re happy to have really closed on the head of the fleet. The name of the game now will be to try and hold onto our position. The strategy on this tack is to strike a balance between speed and course, which is not that easy with the fairly variable wind. The aim at the end of the race is to make as fast headway as possible and try to move further up the ranking. It’s likely to get complicated if we have too much of a deficit at the Gallimard mark, as it will be a straight-line course, but we’ll give it our all. We’re a bit upset not to have hooked onto the right wagon on the first night, but we’re pulling out all the stops to catch up.”

Benjamin Ferré (Monnoyeur – Duo for a Job): “All of those of us onboard had kind of forgotten the hell of sailing upwind, especially Lou-Kévin (Roquais), our media man, who’s wondering what on earth we’ve got him into! We’re beating in quite heavy seas and slamming quite a bit. We’ve really had a tough time of it since early last night as we’ve got some minor issues. We no longer have a starboard daggerboard, we have a hydrogenerator mount that’s only held on by an Allen key and Dyneema, as well as a faulty circuit breaker on the main computer. Lots of minor issues then, which have really spiced up the last few hours, but nothing forcing us to set a course eastwards, so we’re digging deep. We’re waiting for the wind to veer and we’re looking forward to it as the boat will be at her full potential again on the other tack. We really paid the price on yesterday’s reach as the foilers are definitely 4 to 5 knots quicker than us on that point of sail, but we’re happy because, since the start of the race, other than on this tack, we’ve always been able to sail the boat at her true potential. Right now though, we can’t wait to get back to Brest and we have our foot to the floor!”